(Pictured) East Durham College Principal Suzanne Duncan and Baroness Sally Morgan sign the agreement

Wind Farm Employability Fund Could Benefit 500 Local People

(Pictured) East Durham College Principal Suzanne Duncan and Baroness Sally Morgan sign the agreement.

East Durham College has agreed a deal with one of the UK’s leading renewables companies to establish and operate a new Employability Fund that could be worth over £1.5 million.

The Memorandum of Understanding between the College and Infinis was signed at a short ceremony held at the Peterlee campus today (July 9th), by College Principal, Suzanne Duncan and Baroness Sally Morgan, Non-Executive Director of Infinis.

Under the terms of the MOU the community benefit monies arising from the operation of the proposed five turbine Wingate Grange Wind Farm will be placed in an Employability Fund to be administered by the College.  The fund will be open to anyone of working age from 16 – 65 to assist them to access skills training that will allow them to enter employment and will include fees and student support, which would not otherwise be supported.

Should the wind farm be approved, access to the fund will be available to those living in the council wards of Wingate and Trimdon & Thornley specifically those in the communities of Wingate, Wheatley Hill and the Trimdons.  The fund, which is estimated to be worth £62,500 a year, will support at least 500 local residents over the lifetime of the wind farm.

The MOU signing follows extensive consultation with a large number of local stakeholders to consider how the money could be put to best use. In addition, Infinis commissioned an independent economic impact assessment to identify the key problems facing County Durham and East Durham in particular and proposing recommendations for action.  The study, carried out by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR North), clearly identified the need for more skills training opportunities for young people and adult learners.

The IPPR study also outlines substantial economic benefits to both the county and wider region.  Specifically, the project could create around £18m for County Durham and the north east region  which takes into consideration the development, construction and maintenance of the wind farm.  Wingate Grange will also provide a significant fiscal benefit to the county, generating approximately £150,000 per annum in business rates to Durham County Council.

Signing the MOU, College Principal, Suzanne Duncan said: “We are delighted to have reached agreement with Infinis to administer the Employability Fund.  In this current climate, funding for adult learning courses is very limited, therefore initiatives like the Employability Fund are vital.   I’m sure it will make a real difference to local people and allow them the opportunity to take up courses they might not otherwise have been able to attend.

“We look forward to working with our partners within the surrounding communities of Wingate, Wheatley Hill, Trimdon and Thornley.”

Baroness Sally Morgan on behalf of Infinis said: “Infinis is a seen as a best in class developer and it is important to us as a company that the local people living close to our wind farm projects share in the benefits that they bring.

“The IPPR study outlined the need for more training opportunities for local people and that is what this our Memorandum of Understanding is designed to do.  With a minimum of 500 local individuals set to benefit, we are extremely proud of our MOU and partnership with the College.

“We are delighted that the £18m investment identified in our IPPR study will benefit local residents, communities and companies of County Durham and the north east.  As such we will be creating a Procurement Working Group, drawn from the wider Steering Group to develop a procurement strategy that positively favours local companies operating in the County Durham area and wider north east region. The Working Group will begin developing the strategy and will publish the good practice guide in the coming months.”

Durham County Council will consider the planning application for Wingate Grange Wind Farm in September.